Daniel Aleman was born in Georgetown, Texas to Pedro and Carmen Aleman on November 26, 1943. His father was a laborer in many different kinds of work. There was an older brother, Pedro Jr. who was about a year and a half older: with this brother Daniel experienced his growing-up years. Ten years after Dan another brother, Edward, would come into the family.
The family had been living the life-style of migrant cotton-pickers. They would migrate to the Lubbock area in the fall to pick cotton near a small town called Wolfforth. Carmen, the mother, would insist that while over there picking cotton the boys should go to school, so, they were enrolled at the Wolfforth School, called Frenship. There they were immediately moved over to the “migrant school” which was one room at the back of the gym with one door and no windows, with one teacher for all grades. Upon returning to their hometown of Georgetown, the boys were enrolled in school where they were both, again, sent to the “migrant school”, which in Georgetown was the basement of a nearby Baptist church.
With the birth of the youngest son, Edward, the Aleman family ended their cotton-picking migrations, again, at the mother’s insistence. The father continued to go work with the cotton business as a worker in the cotton gins. He would leave earlier in the season and come back later. The mother and sons would continue in the cotton-picking business working in fields between Georgetown and Taylor (there was a truck that would come by the neighborhood and pick up kids after school). This Georgetown life-style continued for a while until the boys, Pete Jr. and Daniel, grew to be big enough that the father decided that they could all make more money if they changed over to the business of shearing goats. First the boys worked as “laneros” (they would pick up the mohair from Angora goats, or wool from sheep) and then finally moved up to become real “tasinques” (shearers).
This life-style went on for a long time and then later was improvised upon, to fill the summer time between the end of the school year and the beginning of central Texas goat shearing season (end of July), with trips in the father’s pick-up to Montana/Wyoming to shear sheep, and/or work in Hereford, Texas with the onion and potato crops. Eventually they would be back in Georgetown shearing goats by the end of July until the boys started school (which was normally a couple of weeks after the actual official start of school). As can be imagined, the Aleman boys were ready to go back to school whenever that school season finally arrived.
At Georgetown High School Daniel was very active in both athletics and band, but had his sports career ended by a traffic accident the summer before his junior year where he fractured and dislocated his hip. He was active in both band and choir where in his senior year he served as president of both organizations. Academically, Daniel says, “Early in my high school years I decided that I wanted everybody to think I was smart (I had some really “smart” friends, but nobody thought of me as “smart”), so, I figured that what I had to do was take the most difficult classes, with the most demanding teachers, and make nothing but “A’s.” By the end of his high school career he was in the National Honor Society and graduated in the top 10 of his class. Musically, he was not a very good trumpet player. He was very active in band but never became a standout, technically, good player. Daniel adds: “I had, while in high school, a charming, free-spirited, elderly lady (Frances Hausenfluck) accompany me to my trumpet solo at UIL contest one year. She was probably my most influential music teacher I had ever had in those years.
Even though she knew absolutely nothing about trumpet playing she knew about music, and nobody had ever talked to me about music before. She talked about how “this note is asking for this other note” and about how these notes “are going somewhere”….. and it all seemed to make sense to me.”
It was at the encouragement, one day, of two of Dan’s classmate friends (Dane Evans and Joyce Partain), who were already planning on going to Southwestern to major in music, that Dan actually thought about going to college. “Oh sure Dan, the band director at Southwestern was your band director when we were all in the 6th and 7th grade bands here in Georgetown. You just call him and he’ll tell you exactly what you need to do.” (And by the way, Dan’s older brother Pete Jr., a trombone player, was already going to Southwestern and majoring in music, but, never in his life had Dan wanted to do something just because his older brother was doing it.) So, it just happened that Daniel decided to go to college.
Daniel says, “At Southwestern I was shocked to find out how really badly prepared I was for performing on my trumpet and for studying music. Of the eight trumpets in the concert band, all could play better than me and only one was actually music major. Music theory class was all a blur: I knew nothing about chords, “colors”, scales, keys, progressions, parallel fifths, etc, etc, etc. In solfeggio they wanted me to sing this one on the “numbers”, or this one on the “syllables”. I could barely kind of fake my way through on “la-la-la”. I was constantly a nervous wreck afraid that the teacher (Dean Richards) would ask me to “sing” something by myself!”
Daniel continues, “Without the help of my friend Dane (who had been taking piano lessons since the age of three on his mother’s lap) I would not have made it through my music theory classes. Had it not been that Dean Richards actually realized how ill prepared I was for his class and, I believe, purposely tried to protect me from serious embarrassment, I would not have survived that class. And of course, had it not been for the understanding and patience of Mr. Nelson, who worked with my trumpet playing in-abilities, compounded by the fact that I, as a student, was constantly questioning and opposing all the instruction he tried to give me, (with much work and practice (five or six hours per day) I was actually beginning to become a better player: I could now begin to be musical through my horn). I complained about his private instruction, and I even complained about his conducting of his Southwestern wind ensemble. (It was many years later when our Region XI had invited Dr. Nelson to come do our Region Band Clinic where I was shocked to find that the way I conducted, the things I worked on, the things I would say for instruction, were exactly like his!)”
After graduation in 1966 my first teaching job was with the Comal County Rural High School District around New Braunfels. I taught beginners at the new Bulverde Jr. Hi. whose 7th and 8th grades had never had band before, as well as beginners at three different middle schools? Each day I would travel about 130 miles. (The school paid for my mileage which, as I recall, was about what they paid me to teach.) I was there for two years, and during those years I would go over to the New Braunfels HS band hall to visit with and watch Joe Rogers work with his band. I wanted my “band” to sound like Joe’s, but I just couldn’t make it happen. (It was not until later that I realized that my band wouldn’t sound like his unless I had 10 sousaphones and 130 students in the band.)
I liked working with my kids and felt that we were actually getting things done, but I wasn’t sure. I never had anybody with which to discuss ideas, or to just listen and give comments. We had concerts, but nobody in any of the music programs of the entire district went to any UIL competitions. At the high school there was no football team, no marching band, no UIL anything. I really needed something else for a teaching position, but I was not sure what.”
About that time Dan had been discussing his situation with Bob Reitz (of Reitz Music Co. in Austin) who suggested that actually he was in need of a “roadman” right then because he had just lost somebody working for him. Bob Reitz suggests, ”I need somebody right now, you’re not sure what kind of job you want to move to, so, come work with me for at least one year and I promise you that after that you will know exactly what kind of job you want and even which job you will get.”
Thus began the most crucial turning point in Daniel’s band teaching career. Through his association with Bob Reitz and Reitz Music he was able to walk into band halls and watch band directors teach all over central and south Texas all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley.
Daniel says, “It was wonderful to get to know both Bob and Janice and their family, but Bob was the person I dealt with the most. The best thing about Reitz Music Co. was Bob Reitz; he was warm to all, full of life and amazed by life: he loved music; he was amazed by what band directors could do with bands and by what they could together do with music. He knew more about the history of Texas bands and band directors (from his own experiences and from listening to stories from his father Warren and his uncle Lloyd) than anybody else I’ve ever known. Traveling with Bob was always intellectually stimulating. I never knew what our conversational topic would be…music? art? literature? civilization? Sometimes when we were going to “hit the road”, we would first figure out where we wanted to eat, and then plan the trip accordingly.”
About doing business, Bob would say, “Make sure you know when the director you need to see has his big class, show up right as he’s finishing, visit a little, take care of your business, and get out of there.” Dan: “ I would get there about 15 minutes before his big class, discuss his lesson plan for the day, watch the whole rehearsal, visit more after class, then leave, many times forgetting to leave what I was supposed to deliver, or, without picking up the repair I was supposed to get.”
Daniel continues, “During my four years of working with Reitz Music Co. besides the wonderful opportunity to actually watch so many band directors “work” (by the way, don’t get confused into thinking that you know what kind of teacher someone is because you talk to them at TBA or TMEA: you do not know that director until you watch him “work” with his own band), I also had the opportunity to pay special attention to certain band programs with which Reitz Music had an especially close relationship, and for whose success they felt, at least to some degree, somewhat responsible.
We at Reitz Music did what we could to foster healthy band programs and had dealings with many that were quite successful, but the one I personally learned so much from was Bryce Taylor’s Alice. Bryce’s program started off by taking the beginners class very seriously: they got them started very carefully, with great detail, with plenty of time during the summer (two hour sessions of light instruments); they tried to have the best expert private instructors for each instrument on their staff somewhere, and had them teaching private lessons; there was constant monitoring of progress throughout each student’s band career; overall, just a complete music school that year after year produced extremely well trained and musical students. Every time I went to Alice, and I went often, was a learning experience for me.
I also concentrated a lot of time in Georgetown which, besides allowing me to go visit relatives (also, it seemed that I always had cousins that were in the band there), it also allowed me to keep up with my brother Edward who went through Rodney Klett’s band and then on to Southwestern with Dr. Nelson. I learned a lot from watching Klett’s attention to chordal integrity and intonation of everybody’s every note, while Rey Meza took care of the melodic linear movement. Klett’s attention to all of the little details of the music was incredible and the results were amazing.
Through my travels with Bob, and on my own, I had met so many people from whom I had learned so much: George Nelson, Joe Rogers, Bryce Taylor, Rodney Klett, Rey Meza, Don Fleuriet, Lee Boyd Montgomery, Eddie Zamora, Avie Teltschik, Gerald Babbitt, Perry Suggs, Paula Crider, Verda Harrington, Linda McDavitt, Don Haynes, Eddie Galvan,……….but, I begin to feel that I wasn’t doing anything. Bob thought I should open my own music store. I finally decided that what I wanted to do was to go to Mexico City and study Spanish literature. So, a few years after the ’68 student riots in the Distrito Federal, I am enrolled at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.
In Mexico I read and read and travel. I travel and read and read. Then I read and read more, and travel more. Then Gerald Babbitt calls me one night to tell me that he has already told the superintendent at Pearsall that, since he was leaving to take over the band in Round Rock, Daniel Aleman was the person they should hire for the Pearsall job.
So, now it’s major decision time again. I am having a nice time in Mexico (by now I’m even teaching an English class for UNAM Mexican students!), but, I had originally gone to work with Reitz Music Co. in order to learn more about the band business, which I felt I had accomplished. Babbitt told me, “You’ve been coming over here and telling me how to do this and how to do that, well, come do it yourself.” So, after three semesters and 36 hours of post-graduate classes in Spanish literature, I decide to go resume my band directing business.
Along with this I also decided I really had to talk to my long time sweetheart, Orfalinda, who had not ever been ready to marry me, and try to convince her that now was the time for us to do it. She agreed, and said that she would need about three or four months to plan the wedding. I explained that we needed to be in Pearsall by July, so I would give her two weeks to organize our wedding.
Our honeymoon was Pearsall. She hated it. “Pearsall is not like Austin!” But we began to settle in. When school started, however, I realized that what I had inherited was not Babbitt’s band because many kids were missing. Historically, you need to take into account (which I personally had not!) that in 1973 there was major tension in South Texas, and Pearsall, between the Chicanos and the white Anglos. Many white kids had dropped out of band, and continued to drop out, due to the white community’s uneasiness of having in Pearsall their very first Mexican band director. Anyway, the bottom line was that I convinced myself that the situation was what it was, but, in my band hall, my business was to teach band, and I was not going to allow what was happening outside to influence or distract me from what I was there to do.”
Dan continues, “My job now was to figure out how to adapt, to my band program here in Pearsall, what I had seen work so well in Alice, Georgetown, and all those other places where I had seen success. I knew I could not just copy what they did. I had to understand the idea that worked and then work to implement that idea, after adapting it, and personalizing it into this Pearsall band program.
There were a lot of bobbles, false steps, adjustments, tweaking, and some outright mistakes: “a lot of learning has to happen before the teaching can start”. I was determined to be successful and was willing to do all the work, and spend all the time that was required to get this done. I would normally be at the band hall an hour before the first class and not get home until the last sectional which was over at about 8:00 PM. My wife would not let our kids (Carmen and Sergio) have supper until I got home.(before they were old enough to be in band, I might not see them at all if they ate and went to bed by 8:00 PM!) My wife provided a home that was an oasis into which I could retreat for nourishment and relaxation so that I could then go back and play my “band director games”: like teaching the beginners their first six major scales ascending by half-steps from B-flat through E-flat before giving them their Christmas music before Thanksgiving; like teaching our top Jr. Hi. band enough technique to be able to play for UIL two selections from the grade III list: or, like teaching enough technique to my high school top group through work of all-region tryouts and solo and ensemble work to be able to play one number from the grade V list and one from the grade IV list. Those were my “games”, and she made it possible. I did it. But, she made it possible.”
So, what actually happened in Pearsall? Daniel continues: “In Pearsall we did many things that were not particularly being done anywhere around us: our high school band grew to over 200 students (about one third of the entire high school population); we started with one assistant and ended with four; we had as many as three HS bands and three JH bands that would go to UIL contest; we had playing sectionals for summer band, and no marching; we had no Monday-night extra marching rehearsals during marching season; we have a lot of very detailed written tests for all the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades; we start our beginners with 90 minute classes of like instruments in the summer for two weeks before the start of school; I am in charge of the beginners classes and my assistants assist me; our 6th graders learn and play their 12 major scales chromatically from B-flat; we do not start percussion in the 6th grade (and still manage to have our fair share of students in the JH and HS all-region bands’ percussion sections); all students in the top HS group will be involved in two class I (we do only class I) solo or ensemble events (mainly ensemble); for my first 25 years of teaching I wrote my own marching shows; our top HS concert band would play a grade V and a IV, the second band a grade IV and III, and the top JH band two grade III’s: in my 35 years with the Pearsall band we have received one II in marching, one II in sight reading, one II in concert, and 102 Superior I UIL evaluations; I am proud to have been selected as a recipient of the prestigious UIL Sponsor Excellence Award; Pearsall has been selected as the TMEA AAA Honor Band of the state; Pearsall has won the UIL AAA State Marching Band contest; Pearsall has been in the UIL State Marching Contest Finals nine times.
Daniel says, “My Pearsall bands were not an elite group of music-oriented super- achievers. We worked hard to teach each of the members to achieve their maximum potential, and provided them with the opportunity to contribute their portion to the whole of the band’s production. I am proud of the accomplishments of the top of our program, but, am even prouder of the depth of teaching we have attained with all of our program’s participants down to the 3rd HS band, the 3rd JH band, and even our super 6th graders. I believe that by having had large numbers of students enter into our program, and then having large numbers of these stay with our program, we have shown that what we do is not only just enjoyable. but actually worthwhile: intellectually challenging to the high achieves and within the reach of any student wanting to become a part of all that this program offers. I tried to make sure we offered a quality program of real musical merit: training in discipline, in instrumental technique, in artistic expression, and, all this available to the greatest number and variety of students possible.
I believe that we as teachers must treat with great respect and responsibility the potential influence we can have over the entire life of each of our students. And, remember, we have no idea which student we will influence the most. We influence our students by what we teach, and by the kind of person we are to them. We influence our students by how we teach. Each teacher teaches each student to learn; through the teaching of our subject now, the student can be taught the discipline to learn any subject later.”
SPECIAL THANKS: to my Mother and Father who taught me how to work and do whatever you have to do to survive; to Mr. George Nelson for putting up with me and coaxing me to move in the right direction; to Mr. Bob Reitz (and Janice) for exposing me to a completely new world of so many wonderful band directors and band halls; to my wonderful wife Orfalinda who married me, gave me a wonderful home and two lovely children, Carmen and Sergio, and who remained married to me even though I spent more time at the band hall than at home (and allowed me to play my “band director games”); to Mr. Bryce Taylor (and Dee ) for being such a strong and powerful figure, not only of what a band and band director should be, but also the importance of a warm and loving family; to Mr. Rodney Klett (and Mary Ann ) whom I really consider my mentor because not only did he “teach” me how to work with a band (for my first two years at Pearsall I was at his house practically every weekend!), but he is the one that showed me all the “band director games”; and many, many thanks to Edward Aleman (Kathleen, Julia, Marco, Natalie) for working with me for 30 years and adding such strength to all of our projects with the Pearsall band program: he and I had really gotten this whole thing rolling along, and we always felt that, if we had to, between the two of us, we could still keep the whole thing going: I’m so glad that in Pearsall the band hall was named the “Daniel and Edward Aleman Band Hall”; thanks to all the multitude of eager assistants we had come through the Pearsall bands and share their knowledge, abilities, and enthusiasm with us all; thanks to the parents who had the faith to give us their children on loan to do with thought would be most musically expedient; and thanks to all the students who believed me and worked with me when I said, “while you’re here, I want you to try to do what I ask you to do.”